Saw a debate on the Supreme Court judgement in India about the right to Freedom of Speech, that it should not be absolute, but with some reasonable restrictions. The debate was on NDTV - the Big Fight.
Absolute freedom should be given, but only when the society as a whole and as individuals can use it responsibly. To make sure that the society is responsible, the society has to be mature, mature not to overreact to criticism, not to take it as a threat to their beliefs, but to take it as an opportunity to self question. That requires confidence as well.
Another question to ask is, why do you want that absolute freedom to say anything. To pass judgements on anything and everything, whether it concerns you or not, or, to ensure that you speak up against what you think is wrong.
The first is just the absolute wrong reason, and thats where defamation cases come in. more about that later. but the first, just gives rise to channels like current Hindi channels we have in India, and helps groups of people to take advantage of the issues to push their own agendas, like certain groups in India, who 'organise' protests against everything, right from couple sitting in a park, to Bihari in Bombay, to M F Hussain's paintings.
The second, where you don't like whats happening, you don't agree with it, you don't think its right, but it doesn't really affect you directly, you are not involved in it directly - to what extent should you be allowed to speak or action? It is not your cause, you do not understand it fully, even if you do, you surely don't feel the emotions around it to the same extent as the one's directly involved. So are you in a position to make extreme statements about it? or for that matter take extreme steps to justify your postion, and still not be directly involved.
I believe, the absoluteness of freedom of speech should be directly related to the maturity of the society, and / or the effectiveness of its judgement systems - courts.
If the society is mature, can make and take positive criticism, and can decide on what is the larger good, then yes, absolute freedom. Because then, extreme situations won't ever arise, people who have an opinion will speak it out mildly, but continually, and people who they have the problem with, will take a look at every opinion, and judge it at its merit. And as required, change.
That would be ideal, but if the society is not as mature, the courts come in picture. The courts ensure that extremism is not there, and if it is, it is justified. Anyone who doesn't really care about something, shouldn't be making statements about it...anyone against whom statements have been made, doesn't just try to mute the statements, but instead gets into a healthy discussion about those statements.
Rules should only be for a society like ours, the immature society, where a majority doesn't know right from wrong and don't really care, a minority are selfish and will use this freedom to push their own agendas and manipulate the majority...that is where Rules, absolute rules are required. True, rules mute down the extreme 20% of the spectrum, because of these rules the progress of society will be slowed down, because those extreme thoughts are the ones which change the world, but even though the process will be slow, it will be steady, it will not be a roller coaster right which will leave many hurt and dead.
Some more things:
Is use of violence justified, well before you ask that, ask why does someone resort to violence. Simply because what they want to say is not being heard...because their voices are so weak, that its easy to ignore them. And they haven't been heard for a long time...and so the only resort for them is violence, to ensure that attention is paid to what they are saying.
This simply points to a failure of democracy, where smaller, weaker groups are not heard. If the democratic mechanisms were efficient and effective, every small problem was heard, and a reasonable answer given to it, this wouldn't really have been a problem.
Defamation cases - I don't think you can file a defamation case against someone just because they said something against you, i think you should only be able to file a defamation case if you know that the other person didn't have enough information to say what they said, or they don't really care about it, but made a cavalier comment to piggy back on the news it creates.
Never should we take away the right to criticize. It will make the world a easier place to live in the short term, with everyone just praising everyone or staying quiet, but in the longer run, it will make our world static. Most of the changes come out of criticisms...specially the slow ones. There are few big bang idea led changes. If you don't let anyone criticize, the creators are always gonna think their creations are perfect and will never want to change.
A lot of this becomes very clear if you read what Osho has said. Freedom with responsibility, experience something before commenting on it, slow inborn change...are all fundas from Osho.
Also can't find the recording of the debate online, but some of the comments in the post are attributed to or refer to what was said in there. Like India not being a mature country, like the fact that we have very good democratic mechanisms (on paper at least) but the people not keep pace with them.
And also i love the fact that more and more people are talking about 'the idea of India'...we really need to understand what our country stands for. we have all learn it in Civics, but do we really understand it, do we really care about it.